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Adderall was on backorder, so I spent a month without medication

'Not being on the medicine I take every day was already ruining my relationship with my roommate, but now it was affecting my school and work life'

adhd on backorder.jpg

"Finally, I’m rattled back to reality." Illustration published on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.

From a dead sleep, the chirp of a too-loud alarm startles me awake. It’s 9 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 1. I grumble to myself as I leave the warmth of my sheets behind and get ready for the day. 

Every morning it’s the same routine. 

First I look at the outfit I laid out the night before. Then I check my phone’s weather app to make sure what I’m wearing will be alright. Then I get distracted on Twitter for 15 minutes. When I try to put on my makeup, I end up zoning out and staring at myself in the mirror for another 15. 

“I wonder what it’s like to be colorblind. What if we’re all colorblind? How would anyone know? So many people don’t know about me. We’re all so small in the grand scheme of things. Wow, I haven’t been to The Grand in so long,” I think, “Wait, how did I start thinking about The Grand? Where did that even come from?” 

Finally, I’m rattled back to reality. 

“Oh, I haven’t taken my Adderall.” 

I reach for the bottle and see I only have a few pills left. I make a mental note to get a refill — but give that thought five minutes and it will escape me. 

I have to get it, though, because without it I feel like I don’t have a brain. I’m scatterbrained enough getting ready for my day, having to go to class or work without it is a whole other beast. 

A few days later, I finally remembered. So I went to the pharmacy. 

Adderall is different from other prescriptions. Because it is commonly sold and can be addictive, prescriptions are not refillable, you must have a physical doctor's note or have your doctor call it in to fill it. Some doctors —mine included — require urine samples at each visit to ensure the Adderall they are prescribing is being taken regularly by their patient. 

It’s already a tedious process, but with my doctor's note in hand, onward I went to the pharmacy. But when I got there, they told me they didn’t have any. 

The medication I take every day was on backorder. 

“We have another one, but it’s different. You’d have to change how often you take it and we’d have to call your doctor to get it approved,” the pharmacist told me. 

I still had a few pills left, so I decided to wait it out. Surely they would have something in by next week. I’ll just stop taking them in the afternoon, I can malfunction as long as it’s after class. 

And, boy, malfunction I did. 

Days went by, and my roommate would come home to find the fridge door open and an empty Brita in front of the TV. The next day it’d be a Keurig on, coffee-pod in, mug underneath, creamer out, but I was nowhere to be found. 

I was just trying to get by, but it seemed impossible. 

After a week, I tried to fill my prescription again. This time I was told they didn’t have anything and they didn’t know when they would. This time, there was no other option. There was no other pharmacy that did have it. There was a national shortage and that was that.

So for the rest of the month, I just had to deal with a broken brain. 

Not being on the medicine I take every day was already ruining my relationship with my roommate, but now it was affecting my school and work life. Some mornings I would get so distracted, I wouldn’t even make it to class, or I’d be incredibly late at the least.

When I did make it, I’d either be fidgety and jittery or bored and zoned out. To me, my actions seemed rational. To my teachers, I seemed rude and careless. In one month, my grades dropped in every class I took. 

At work, I misplaced things, wandered around trying to remember what I was supposed to do and overall seem super frazzled. Everything I did embarrassed me, but what was I supposed to do about it? 

“Sorry, that’s just my brain. If it were up to me, neither of us would have to see me like this,” I would think. 

There was no solution. Waiting it out and being a mess was all I had. 

Finally, after a month of being a drugless wreck, the shortage ended in November. I could finally function again. After seeing the world of a difference Adderall makes in me, I couldn’t believe I had gone 18 years of my life without medication. 

READ MORE: I knew I had ADHD. My gender kept me from getting diagnosed

The entire process of refilling and maintaining a prescription, in general, is a relatively new process to me, let alone having to chase down my pills when they’re not available. 

Now that it is available, I know to appreciate it while it lasts — until the next time my roommate comes home to find the shower on and no one in it. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @SaraWindom on Twitter. 

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